Well, here we are – the last course of my 4-course celebration dinner for the future “Dr. Dan!” I actually had a dessert planned, too, but ran out of preparation time, which was just as well because our hunger was quite deeply satisfied once we hit this delicious salad.
Serving salad last is a European sensibility. I like it a lot for two reasons: 1. Salad offers a nice, light finish to a meal and acts as a bit of a palate cleanser; and 2. Digestion-wise, it is a good choice. Meat requires more enzymes to digest so eating the heavier course first gets things working in the stomach and intestines. Win-win.
I love-love-love heart of palm, which comes from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees. Slightly crunchy with a very mild, briny flavor, it can be eaten alone but is a wonderful ingredient for salads.
I first tasted heart of palm many years ago in an upscale, open-air restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii. So I associate this “stem vegetable” with balmy breezes, deliciously warm temperatures, happy decadence and very, very good food. Thus when I use it in a dish, that dish automatically becomes special. Don’t you just love it when a certain food can do that?
Here’s my special salad for my son’s special celebration …
Heart of Palm Salad
3 pieces of heart of palm, sliced to ¼ inch thick
½ medium avocado, diced
10 (or so) pitted kalamata olives, sliced
½ cup shaved cabbage (green or red)
Garlic powder & onion powder
Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt & fresh ground pepper
1-3 T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 t red wine vinegar
¼ cup cilantro leaves
Mixed baby greens (you choose how much you want to use)
1 oz. cotija or feta cheese, crumbled
Put first 4 ingredients in a salad bowl. Dash liberally with garlic and onion powders, 3 or so good shakes of Jane’s and 3 or so rounds of ground pepper. Add olive oil and vinegar in proportions that suite your taste. Mix; then let sit for 5 minutes.
Add cilantro leaves and greens to mixture and toss to combine. Taste. Add more seasoning, olive oil and/or vinegar to suite your taste.
Plate individually or serve in bowl to share at the dinner table; top with crumbled cheese as a garnish. Serves 4 or more.
So … as you probably guessed, cilantro was my theme ingredient! If you try this menu in its entirety, notice that cilantro’s distinct flavor changes when combined with other foods and how it enhances other flavors.
Using a theme ingredient is an exercise in “awareness” – really engaging and using our senses – taste, smell, texture – to slow us down and make us present to the nuances of our food experience and to those precious ones who have gathered with us to eat and enjoy. Plus, it’s a great conversation piece.
Thanks for going on this celebration journey with me.
Eat well. Be happy.